In this article, we explain the five main Omicron symptoms – while looking at why the variant is still dominant in global public health
The most important thing to do is take a test to confirm any suspicions of COVID. Even a mild cold has some of the key symptoms of the virus.
With Omicron being more infectious than Delta, it is also good to move quickly in figuring out if you have it or not.
Explaining the continuing power of the virus in a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) press conference, Dr Abdi Mahamud said: “So, while everyone was saying Omicron is milder, I think we missed the point that half a million people have died since this was detected.”*
Omicron variant continues to dominate global public health
While vaccination roll-outs across some regions continue successfully, other countries face the likelihood of a fifth wave – with less than 50% of the population fully vaccinated. They are dealing with vaccine hesitancy, infrastructural issues, and existing public health issues.
Most importantly, they are not legally allowed the recipe for existing vaccines – despite having empty factories waiting to make them. The legal fight to let countries make their own vaccines continues on, but is far from done.
In an open letter, the Movement of International Students 4 Trips Waiver said: “Lessons from the AIDS/HIV crisis have not been learnt.”
— Movement of International Students 4 TRIPS Waiver (@Students4Waiver) February 16, 2022
A technology transfer scheme attempts to work around a loophole in the complexities of international law, but will only produce usable vaccines for hard-hit regions in 2024.
In countries like Ukraine, facing Russian violence, access to medical oxygen supplies is another huge issue. Without access to oxygen, individuals hospitalised with severe COVID will have no treatment.
In other places, COVID restrictions have been relaxed entirely. In the UK, people who test positive for the virus are legally allowed to mix with the rest of the population. Masks are no longer required either. The UK has one of the highest death rates in the world, comparative to population size.
Sadly, that isn’t true.
The virus continues to be an active threat, for billions of people.
A statement by the WHO on Monday (7 March) said: “As we enter the third year of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is spreading between people at an intense level globally.
“There are many factors that are driving transmission. One of these is the emergence of highly transmissible variants of concern, the latest being Omicron. The virus continues to evolve and the risk of future emergence of variants is high.”
The five key Omicron symptoms
According to the ZOE study – conducted across Omicron and Delta waves for comparison – there are five key symptoms of the Omicron variant.
1. Runny nose (especially in combination with loss of smell)
A runny nose is a universal sign of cold, flu and now COVID-19. The team at ZOE, a study that tracks symptoms in the virus, say that a runny nose should be approached with caution – especially in wintertime.
They found that nearly 60% of people who tested positive with loss of smell, also had the symptom of a runny nose.
This is described by researchers as one of the earliest signs of the disease – even more common than cough, fever and loss of smell. However, headaches can be symptoms of many things.
Luckily, scientists have already established what a COVID headache looks like.
The pain level should be moderate to severe, the sensation should be pulsing, pressing or stabbing. The location of the headache should be across both sides of the head, not in one area. It should last for more than three days and be resistant to normal, at-home painkillers.
3. Mild or severe fatigue
Fatigue is a key Long COVID syndrome, but also exists as a classic Omicron symptom.
Fatigue, linked to brain fog, is also more common than the trio of cough-fever-loss-of-smell. This level of tiredness goes beyond what a good night’s sleep can fix. It is a tiredness that can cause a decrease in cognitive power, whether it is memory or focus.
Sadly, 80% of Long COVID sufferers have to live with brain fog.
4. Sneezing (if vaccinated)
Sneezing in the winter or summer could be connected to flu, cold, or allergies. Normally, it isn’t even considered that strong of a COVID symptom.
Sneezing is an Omicron symptom only in people who have been vaccinated atleast twice. The reason for why is currently unknown.
5. A sore throat for five days
COVID, as a respiratory disease, targets the throat and lungs especially. A sore throat is an early sign of the virus, so can be a good way to begin isolating and testing. This Omicron symptom is also common across all age-groups, with the throat infection being relatively mild.
However, a more painful sore throat lasting longer than five days may be more than an Omicron symptom. This could be a bacterial infection, which requires immediate medical intervention.
*figures accurate as of 8 February.